Revealing research for the machines you build

Editor in Chief Joe Feeley discusses a few things that hit him about the results of a new CONTROL DESIGN study that reveals how you research, specify and buy your automation and control products.

Editor in Chief Joe FeeleyBy Joe Feeley, Editor in Chief

THE COVER story we put together this month, detailing our study of how you research, specify, and eventually buy automation and controls for the machines you build, was an enjoyable and revealing project to complete (See "How You Find Your Machine Automation").

My sincere thanks to those of you who took the time to participate. I hope you’ll find the results worth the read.

Actually, before I push on, I should wait a few minutes to let you read the article, and then please come on back, and let’s talk about it.

Done? OK, let’s discuss a few things that hit me about the study results. Nothing would please me more than to hear back from you about the value of the study, good or bad.

Nobody really should be surprised to discover that you’re using the web for much of your product research these days. However, after we’d concluded the study, I was asked, “Does that help them?” Did I know if the respondents who said the web is their primary research tool actually were spending less time on research than groups that preferred other methods?

I didn’t know, so I went back to the raw data and, with a little more sorting, found that those who said supplier web sites are their primary research tools spend about 40% less time on product research than those who spend the most time, which are the ones who primarily depend on local distributors.

I dug a bit further and found that those of you who say trade mags such as CONTROL DESIGN are your primary product research tool spend the second-lowest number of hours on research. That fits with several of the comments made by respondents that the magazine provides a solid overview from which they can dig deeper and, apparently, more efficiently too.

That gives me some confidence, even though you prefer supplier sites right now, that we’re on the right track to build with the type of content that you’ll view as supplemental to what you like in the magazine, and it eventually will become your primary time-saving research tool.

Another thing that actually caught my eye was the downside of the result that says you value direct contact with the automation supplier experts more highly than any other product research vehicle. The downside is that it isn’t the primary research tool for most of you because you say you have difficulty making contact with these people. Are you hearing that, automation suppliers?

But that’s a validation for us. It’s entirely consistent with why machine builders who’ve participated in our annual AutomationXchange event have been overwhelmingly delighted with it. The event brings machine builders with specific automation needs face-to-face with a properly screened group of automation product managers and technical engineers. This makes those hard-to-pin-down automation experts totally available and well-prepared to talk business.

One last item about the study: it’s reassuring to see that three-quarters of you say you’ve been willing to provide registration information to use online search tools, download white papers, etc. And, the cynic in me aside, more than six in seven provide accurate company and personal information. One of my biggest fears is that you’d be turned off by registration requirements.

For those elements, we ask for registration information about, and the trend is that this will happen more in the future, our promise is that we’ll do our utmost to make you feel like it’s been a fair trade. If you ever feel that isn’t the case, call us out on it. I promise we’ll react positively.